The original book is available at http://www.hsrcpress.ac.za
The current infrastructure crisis in South Africa receives a lot of attention, but consideration should be given to the fact that the country’s labour related production factors are in much worse shape than infrastructure. The deficiencies in transport infrastructure are also understated, especially when compared to the much more visible energy crisis. Combining these two issues means that an analysis of the transport, storage and communication industry (“TSC”) is important and should be carefully considered. Information on the industry is scarce and employment data for the industry incorrectly constructed. The various utilities of transport, telecommunications and postal services are unrelated in terms of output or utility that it provides and within transport, unrelated in terms of output as far as freight and passenger transport are concerned. In spite of this, these groups are often aggregated in reporting, which means that in-depth analysis, even based on statistics such as large sample surveys, is difficult or impossible. Total formal employment in the industry dipped towards the end of the millennium, but has since picked up, though not yet to the same levels as 1995. Postal employment is in decline, and even telecommunication employment is lowering – probably because of automation. Transport employment grows, but passenger transport is becoming more and more inefficient, where information is the scarcest and where a sizeable portion of informal employment is noticed. In fact, the informal employment in this subsector alone is estimated to equal the total formal TSC employment. Freight transport employment is efficient, and is especially becoming more and more efficient for rail as a large mode switch over the next 20 years to rail is expected, both for freight and passengers. This switch will be challenging, as operational employees will be impacted most, with this being the category where the lowest levels of skills, the highest shortages and most employment related ancillary problems, such as work satisfaction issues, are found. New and significantly more engineering skills are required at a time when the skills are in relative decline and where new engineering integration will be needed, not only between disciplines, but also forward and backward in the value chain. Accountability for these issues is unclear. The expected shifts are, in themselves, not managed on a national level and no integrative thinking between infrastructure owners and operators has yet been established. The creation of a national forum, with statutory participation, would at the very least, be an important first step.